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As the Port of Galveston plans for growth, improving traffic flow is a big piece of our strategy. I’d like to share a number of things we’re working on to reduce traffic on Harborside Drive and make it safer for pedestrians to cross between downtown and the waterfront.
We’ll soon begin a $2.3 million improvement project to reopen the covered walkover at 25th Street, making it safer and easier for cruise passengers and visitors to cross Harborside Drive. Closed in 2008 due to Hurricane Ike, the walkover will be open to all, not just the more than 1 million cruise passengers expected to pass through cruise terminals 1 and 2 this year.
Improvements will include air conditioning, escalators on each side and an elevator on the waterfront side to make the walkover easier to use and handicap-accessible. Pedestrians will access it on the downtown side at the city transit terminal at 25th and Strand. On the waterfront side, pedestrians will access it outside of Cruise Terminal 1.
Wayfinding signs, a walkway, and landscaping will encourage cruise passengers and visitors to walk along the waterfront to visit restaurants and attractions between the cruise terminals and Pier 19. With its new configuration, we also expect the walkover to encourage cruise passengers to visit Galveston’s historic downtown.
Harborside Drive was designed and built long before the Port of Galveston became the fourth busiest cruise port in the U.S. Last year we also moved 4 million tons of cargo, some of it by truck down Harborside.
To alleviate Harborside traffic, we’re improving and expanding the interior port road known as Old Port Industrial.
The first phase between 28th and 33rd streets will begin soon. The $2 million project, funded equally by the port and the Texas Department of Transportation, includes adding security fencing and raising, paving and widening the road to three lanes.
We’ll also build a new vehicle entrance for cruise passengers traveling through both cruise terminals. Large trucks that supply cruise ships also will use this entrance. An interesting fact: It takes 28-30 of these trucks to supply one cruise ship.
This should take thousands of cars and buses off of Harborside between 28th Street and 23rd Street, the current cruise terminal entrance.
The plan is to extend this interior road west to 53rd Street for trucks carrying cargo and other port-related traffic. This phased interior road project is estimated to cost $14 million.
Separately, we’ll develop a traffic plan that would include an interior road for the new Royal Caribbean terminal on Pier 10 to alleviate traffic along sections of Harborside.
We’re in the process of selecting a qualified engineering firm to conduct a traffic study to develop alternatives to alleviate the effects of future port growth on residents and businesses in the area. I’ll have more news about that in future columns.
Rodger Rees is director of the Port of Galveston.